Indonesian and Australian navies launched a rescue for about 200 people on a boat that capsized earlier today south of Indonesia in an apparent attempt to reach Australia to seek asylum. Scores of people were feared drowned. The boat capsized about 120 miles north of the Australian territory of Christmas Island—and about the same distance south of Indonesia—with "up to 200 people" on board, the Australian Customs Service said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear where the passengers were from. "There's about 40 on the hull and the rest are in the water," said an Australian police official. "Some of the very early reports suggest that up to 75 people may have drowned, but I do stress that they're unconfirmed at this stage." Christmas Island is a popular target for a growing number of asylum seekers, many from Iran, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka, who attempt to reach Australia on overcrowded fishing boats from Indonesia. An estimated 48 died when an asylum seeker boat broke up against Christmas Island's rocky coast in December 2010.